Frederick K. Brewington, one of Long Island’s most prominent civil rights attorneys, called this week for a civilian complaint review board after two civil suits were filed against Long Beach police for allegedly beating suspects they were attempting to arrest.
One case, involving a 42-year-old mother of two, was resolved earlier this month when the woman agreed to a $65,000 settlement after filing a $1 million suit against the Police Department and several officers. The other case, in which Brewington is representing the plaintiff against the police, is pending in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
The incidents involving the woman, Julia Lopez Motherway, of Long Beach, who is Latino, and another city resident, Ricky Joshua Benny, who is African-American and Latino, occurred in 2018 in Long Beach. No charges were initially filed against the officers in either case.
“The cases prove the police cannot police themselves,” Brewington said. “There’s no accountability to anybody but themselves.”
There is no civilian complaint review board in Nassau County.
“I do not see the need to burden the taxpayers with a civilian complaint review board,” the city’s police commissioner, Ron Walsh, said earlier this week, “when we have had very few officers break the rules.”
Walsh, who took over the Police Department in February 2021 after many years as a high-ranking Nassau County police official, defended the department’s handling of the incidents and police conduct in general.
“Since my tenure, and several years before, any criminal allegations against the Long Beach police were referred to the Nassau County district attorney’s Public Corruption Bureau and the New York state attorney general’s office,” Walsh added.
In early 2021, a group of civil-rights advocates, led by Brewington, presented the Nassau County Legislature with what they called “the People’s Plan” for police reform, which included a recommendation for a civilian complaint review board. More than 30 Long Island organizations and 300 individuals endorsed the plan, but it was never enacted by the Legislature. Brewington said that plans are in the works to develop a new set of recommendations, including a complaint review board.
In May 2021, state Attorney General Letitia James criticized Nassau County’s “failure to create meaningful checks on law-enforcement” because, she said, county officials did not propose such a board to investigate allegations of police misconduct.
On Dec. 8, 2018, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn by Brewington, Benny, 27, was socializing with friends outside a Long Beach bar, the Whales Tale.
The suit states that Long Beach Police Officer Joseph Wiemann and two other officers, one identified as Rocco Walsh and the other unidentified, “were already in the vicinity responding to a fight and/or disturbance at West Beech Street and Virginia Avenue.” Benny was not involved in the incident, according to the suit, which described the participants as white.
The court papers state that Wiemann and Walsh “body slammed” Benny to the ground. “No action was taken against the white persons engaged in some type of disturbance,” the papers said.
The suit goes on to state that Benny sustained injuries to his face, head and upper body, and was rendered unconscious.
He was filed suit for $5 million.
The officers named in the court papers could not be reached for comment.
On July 14, 2018, Motherway went to the Nassau County medical examiner’s office to identify her mother’s body, and then received a notification of a break-in at her mother’s home in Long Beach. In the suit she filed against the city, she stated that she dialed 911, and when she arrived at the house, she discovered that the front door had been removed and the house ransacked. She said she saw her estranged sister and one of her sister’s friends going through her mother’s belongings.
Then, Motherway said, according to court filings, a Long Beach police officer, Lucas Dikranis, led her sister out of the house in handcuffs. On the sidewalk, Motherway began recording the scene on her phone. Suddenly, she said, an officer — who she said was either Mark Stark, Wiemann or one of two other officers whom she could not identify — twisted her left arm around her back and then “attacked” her from behind and “slammed” her on the sidewalk.
Motherway was taken to police headquarters, handcuffed to a bench and had her cell phone taken away, the suit stated. She said she was bleeding from her face, left arm, knees, legs and toes. When her cellphone was returned, she said, the video had been deleted.
Charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest against her were dismissed.